The drive from Antananarivo to Tsiroanomandidy had been easy, and a good introduction to the highland landscapes of Madagascar. The friendly inhabitants of Tsiroanomandidy made us feel very welcome during an afternoon walk. When our driver turned off the main road RN1, he announces with a big smile that we have seen the last asphalt. He clearly knows what lies ahead, while we don't - and he is looking forward to the drive. After all, for a real driver in Madagascar, an asphalt road is a bore, and the real challenge lies in the many dirt roads of the country. The landscape unfolding before our eyes is one of green, rolling hills. We see rice paddies, small rivers, trees, and villages. Every now and then, someone walking or cycling on the road.
Our eyes are glued to the scenery outside, which changes at every corner. At one point, there is a patchy bridge over a river, and we walk across. It is nice to stretch our legs for a while, looking down on the river rushing through below us. When we continue driving, we often don't know where to look - left or right? I would have stopped every hundred metres to take pictures, but while the distance is not long, the going is slow, so we simply don't have much time for that. Oh, we do stop every now and then, when the landscapes are just too beautiful to resist. One of the highlights of this day of adventure is the drive through a small town surrounded by orange plantations. There are many people in the narrow streets, there is a small market, and the driver has to be pointed a detour by the locals. At times, I wonder if we are going to bump into a house, but the skilful driver steers our 4WD around all the corners, past trees, through courtyards, avoiding chicken running loose, to end his drive with a proud smile: "it took us 10 minutes to drive 200 metres".
Shortly thereafter, the dirt road deteriorates so much, that the driver asks us to get off at a particularly steep section. The driver manages to take the vehicle up, but I am faster walking up the hill. We have lunch at a viewpoint, surrounded by boulders. We then enter a landscape of green hills, with many patches of erosion. Red laterite earth shines through the fresh green (the rainy season has just ended), giving the landscape a dramatic look. We drive through small rivers, through mud, on one of the worst roads I have ever seen. At one section, erosion has eaten away so much of the landscape at both sides of the road, that I wonder if it will still be there after the next rainy season. The sun is well on its way down when we finally meet the escarpment immediately to the east of Ankavandra. When we walk to the edge, we see a flat landscape a few hundred metres below us. A wide river meanders through this landscape, the sun turning its water into silver. Getting here from Tsiroanomandidy has been an unexpected adventure, and we know that the next adventure starts right here. We leave the car, and hike down part of the hill to set up camp next to a waterfall where we wash away the dust that we have collected on our long drive.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tsiroanomandidy Ankavandra (Madagascar). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tsiroanomandidy Ankavandra.
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